Hang Tuah

A bronze mural of Hang Tuah that was exhibited at the National History Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Hang Tuah (Jawi: هڠ تواه‎) was a warrior who lived in Malacca during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah in the 15th century.[1][2] He was supposedly the most powerful of all the laksamana, or admirals, and is considered by the Malays to be one of history's greatest silat masters. Hang Tuah is held in the highest regard, even in present-day Malay culture, and is arguably the most well-known and illustrious warrior figure in Malay history and literature.

Early life and background

As a young boy, Hang Tuah worked as a woodcutter in his parents' shop. His grasp of spiritual concepts and potential as a fighter were apparent from a young age. At ten years old he learned silat together with his four comrades Hang Kasturi, Hang Jebat, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu. Their teacher was Adi Putera, a renowned master who lived a hermetic life at the top of a mountain. Under the guru's tutelage, Hang Tuah and his four compatriots were taught the arts of self-defense and meditation.

Hang Tuah's appearance in the history of the region began when some men ran amok near Kampung Bendahara. Tun Perak came with a party of guards to investigate the incident, but was also attacked. His guards fled but when Hang Tuah and his friends, who happened to be at a nearby stall, saw what was happening, they rushed to save Tun Perak. They fought the group and, because of their ferociousness, they ran away.

Tun Perak was amazed by the courage of Hang Tuah and his companions. He rewarded them and presented them to Sultan Muzaffar Syah.[3]


Hang Tuah's Well in Kampung Duyong, Malacca.

Hang Tuah's illustrious career as an admiral or laksamana includes tales of his absolute and unfaltering loyalty to his Sultan, some of which are chronicled in Sejarah Melayu (the semi-historical Malay Annals)[4] and Hikayat Hang Tuah (a romantic collection of tales involving Hang Tuah).

Hang Tuah became the sultan's constant aide, accompanying the king on official visits to foreign countries. On one such visit to Majapahit, Hang Tuah fought a duel with the famed pendekar Taming Sari. After a brutal fight Hang Tuah emerged as winner, and then Singhavikramavardhana, the ruler of Majapahit, bestowed upon him Taming Sari’s kris or dagger. The Keris Taming Sari was named after its original owner, and was purported to be magical, empowering its owner with physical invulnerability.

Hang Tuah also acted as the sultan's ambassador, travelling on the king's behalf to allied countries. Another story concerning Hang Tuah's legendary loyalty to the ruler is found in the Hikayat Hang Tuah, and involves his visit to Inderaputra or Pahang during one such voyage. The sultan sent Hang Tuah to Pahang with the task of persuading the princess Tun Teja, who was already engaged, to become the sultan's companion. Tun Teja fell under the impression that Hang Tuah had come to persuade her to marry him, not the sultan, and agreed to elope with him to Melaka. It was only during the voyage home that Hang Tuah revealed his deception to Tun Teja.

The Hikayat Hang Tuah and Sejarah Melayu each carry different accounts of this incident. The Hikayat records that it was Hang Tuah who persuaded Tun Teja to elope with him, thus deceiving her.

  • Perhaps the most famous story in which Hang Tuah is involved is the fight with his closest childhood companion, Hang Jebat. Hang Tuah's deep loyalty to and popularity with the sultan led to rumours being circulated that Hang Tuah was having an illicit affair with one of the sultan's dayang (court stewardesses). The sultan then sentenced Hang Tuah to death without trial for the alleged offence. The death sentence was never carried out, however, because Hang Tuah's executioner, the bendahara (chief minister), went against the sultan’s orders and hid Hang Tuah in a remote region of Melaka.

Believing that Hang Tuah was dead, murdered unjustly by the king he served, Hang Jebat decided to avenge his friend's death. Hang Jebat's revenge allegedly became a palace killing spree or furious rebellion against the sultan (sources differ as to what actually occurred). It remains consistent, however, that Hang Jebat wreaked havoc onto the royal court, and the sultan was unable to stop him, as none of the warriors dared to challenge the more ferocious and skilled Hang Jebat. The bendahara then informed the sultan that the only man who was able to stop Hang Jebat, Hang Tuah, was still alive. The bendahara recalled Hang Tuah from his hiding place and the warrior was given full amnesty by the sultan and was instructed to kill Hang Jebat. After seven gruelling days of fighting, Hang Tuah was able to kill Hang Jebat.

It is notable that the two main sources of Hang Tuah's life differ yet again on the details of his life. According to the Hikayat Hang Tuah, it was Hang Jebat who avenged his friend's death, only to be killed by the same friend, but according to Sejarah Melayu, it was Hang Kasturi. The Sejarah Melayu or the Malay Annals are unique in that they constitute the only available account of the history of the Malay Sultanate in the 15th and early 16th century,[5] but the Hang Jebat story, as the more romantic tale, remains more popular.

Hang Tuah continued to serve Melaka after the death of Hang Jebat. Later in his life, as Hang Tuah progressed in his years, the warrior was ordered by the successive Melakan ruler to court a legendary princess on the sultan's behalf. The Puteri Gunung Ledang (Princess of Mount Ledang) was so named because she resided on Mount Ledang at the Melaka-Johor border. According to legend, the Princess met with Hang Tuah, and only agreed to marry the sultan if he satisfied a list of requirements, or pre-wedding gifts. The list included a golden bridge linking Melaka with the top of Gunung Ledang, seven trays of mosquito livers, seven jars of virgins' tears and a bowl of the sultan's first-born son's blood. Hang Tuah knew the tasks would not be fulfilled, and was said to be so overwhelmed that he failed his king that he flung his kris into a river and vowed only to return to Melaka if it resurfaced, which it never did. It was also said that he then vanished into thin air. According to other sources, Hang Tuah lived to an old age, and his body is said to have been buried in Tanjung Kling in Melaka, where his tomb can still be seen today; however it is to be believed that his tomb is just a representation of his name and his body is actually buried elsewhere.


He remains extremely popular in Malaysia, embodying the values of upper-class Malay culture at the time, when allegiance and loyalty to the ruler were paramount above all else. Although its historical accuracy remains disputable,[6] the legend of the tragic friendship between Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat represents a paradox in the Malay psyche about loyalty and justice, and remains a point of debate among students of Malay history and literature.[citation needed]

In contemporary Malaysia, Hang Tuah is purportedly quoted as saying "Takkan Melayu Hilang di Dunia" meaning "Never shall the Malay(s) vanish from the earth". The quote is a famous rallying cry for Malay nationalism.[7][8]

In popular culture

Hang Tuah is a prominent legendary figure in Malaysia's popular culture and his story has been adapted into several movies. Famous portrayals in these movies include the ones by:-

Places and things named after Hang Tuah

Admiral Hang Tuah Jamek Mosque

In Malaysia

In Indonesia

See also


  1. ^ David Levinson & Karen Christensen (2002). Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, Vol. 4. Charles Scribners & Sons. pp. 39–139. ISBN 0-684-80617-7.
  2. ^ Ainslie T. Embree (1988). Encyclopedia of Asian History, Volume 2. Charles Scribners & Sons. p. 390. ISBN 978-0-684-18899-7.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Britannica CD - Sejarah Melayu Archived 2011-10-25 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals)
  6. ^ Arman Ahmad (12 December 2015). "Hang Tuah 'did not exist', claims historian". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 20 May 2016.
  7. ^ Liok Ee Tan (1988). The Rhetoric of Bangsa and Minzu. Monash Asia Institute. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-86746-909-7.
  8. ^ Melanie Chew (1999). The Presidential Notes: A biography of President Yusof bin Ishak. Singapore: SNP Publications. p. 78. ISBN 978-981-4032-48-3.
  9. ^ Iklan Kit Kat feat. M Nasir

Further reading

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